Beautiful Equations Blog - 3 Inspirational Women in Science. An old black and white photograph of Marie Curie in her laboratory.

The 11th of February sees the 6th celebration of the UN’s annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day dedicated to recognising the critical role women and girls play in science and technology communities to address the gender gap that has persisted throughout the years at all levels of STEM disciplines all over the world. You can find out more about the virtual event in 2021 here.

To mark the occasion we are celebrating 3 women who’s contribution to science (and especially maths of course) is truly inspirational! Whether you want to share your support and passion with a Women in Maths t-shirt or encourage the aspiring female mathematician in your life with the perfect maths gift, check out our new collection dedicated to these three incredible role models!

1 - Maryam Marzakhani

One of the leading mathematicians of the early 21st century, Maryam Mirzakhani was a professor of mathematics at Stanford University and made outstanding contributions to pure mathematical fields such as Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, ergodic theory, and symplectic geometry. In 2014 she was awarded a Fields Medal for the research she conducted in the Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces, the first Iranian and woman to receive this recognition. 

Sadly, Marazakhani died from cancer in 2017 aged just 40. Her legacy continues to inspire aspiring mathematicians across the globe with the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers prize created in her memory, supporting women in maths with PhD funding. At last year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, she was honoured as one of the seven female scientists who had shaped the world.

2 - Katherine Johnson

Launching a rocket from earth so that it will land exactly on our small orbiting moon almost 400000km away takes some pretty complicated mathematical calculations.. especially in 1960s. Without the precise computations of American mathematician Katherine Johnson, the success of the Apollo space missions and possibly one of the greatest achievements in science and exploration of the 20th century, would not have been possible.

She was awarded the Presidential Medal of freedom in 2015, with praise from Barack Obama “Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society's expectations of her gender and race while expanding the boundaries of humanity's reach”.

Johnson’s outstanding contribution to achievements in space travel throughout her 30 year career at NASA were brought to light by the film ‘Hidden Figures’ that shared her story alongside fellow mathematicians Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan.

3 - Marie Curie

The prestigious Nobel prize is something many scientists aspire to and few will achieve. Marie Curie was not only the first woman to be awarded this accolade but remains the only scientist to have done so in two separate scientific fields.

Having been born and raised in Warsaw Poland, at 24 Marie Curie moved to France to continue her studies in physics at the University of Paris. It was there she met her husband, fellow physicist Pierre Curie, with whom she conducted groundbreaking research into radioactivity that would seem them both awarded with a Nobel Prize in 1903. 8 years later Curie received this award once more, this time for her work in the field of Chemistry, due to her discovery of the elements radium and polonium using techniques she invented for isolating radioactive isotopes.

- Lucy Chats Maths